How is stomach bacteria linked to belly fat?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Belly bugs making you fat? No, it's not a crazy excuse.

There's some lab evidence that certain tummy microbes can "infect" you with flab. Researchers have found that mice who lack a certain protein are about 15% heavier than other mice and have more of an intestinal bug that causes calories to be stored as fat. They also have higher bodywide inflammation, which is linked to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Worse, they have metabolic syndrome, which in humans is characterized by belly fat, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and high LDL cholesterol (the bad kind).

Before you blame your belly bulge entirely on tummy bugs, consider this: You might be encouraging those fat-boosting microbes by eating sugary foods. Don't snort. It's easy to overdo the sweet carbs that microbes love, while still eating low-cal. One meal-replacement bar we saw had only 180 calories but more than 3 teaspoons of sugar!

To nix those bad fat-storing bugs, try cutting back on sugar and/or taking a probiotic supplement of good-guy bacteria. These supplements have bacteria tough enough to survive your stomach acid and replace the bad guys.

If cutting back on sugar and taking probiotics fail, ask your doc if you can try a short course of Flagyl, and then take the probiotics. Flagyl does have side effects, so taking it should not be your first choice.

Yogurt can also help.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.